Search Results for "acupuncture"

Mar 12 2013

Another Acupuncture Meta-Analysis – Low Back Pain

As Carl Sagan observed, “randomness is clumpy,” which means that sometimes, for no specific reason, I write two or more blog posts in a row about the same topic. Perhaps it’s not entirely random, meaning that when a topic is being discussed related news items are more likely to come to my attention.

In any case, there was recently published yet another meta-analysis of acupuncture, this time specifically for low back pain. The findings and interpretation add to the pile of evidence for two important conclusions:

1 – Acupuncture does not work.

2- Acupuncturists refuse to admit that acupuncture does not work.

I would further infer from these two unavoidable conclusions the dire need for a greater understanding of the core principles of science-based medicine.

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Mar 11 2013

Revenge of the Woo

Sometimes the targets of our skeptical analysis notice, and they usually are not pleased with the attention.

Last year the Acupuncture Trialists Collaboration published a meta-analysis of acupuncture trials in which they claim, “The results favoured acupuncture.” The report was widely criticized among those of use who pay attention to such things. In my analysis I focused on the conclusions that the authors drew, rather than their methods, while others also had concerns about the methods used.

The authors did not appreciate the criticism and went as far as to publish a response, in which they grossly mischaracterize their critics and manage to completely avoid the substance of our criticism.

To review, the original meta-analysis concluded:

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo. However, these differences are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.

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Oct 29 2012

Integrative Medicine Propaganda

While I am at home preparing for the “perfect storm” – an Autumn hurricane that is barreling down on the northeast –  I found the following letter in my e-mail:

I am appalled at what I am reading. How is integrative medicine quackery? Have you ever visited a Naturopathic Doctor, or an integrative Doctor or practitioner? I bet you know not one thing concerning not only their practice or about what they do to treat diseases. They understand that sometimes pharmaceutical drugs and surgery are necessary, but understand that sometimes they can cause more harm than good.

For some people, not having their nutrients at optimal levels can cause a series of symptoms to exhibit their “deficiency”. For some people toxins do cause problems and therefore need to detoxify. For instance, a cancer patient went to see a naturopathic doctor and found that she was being exposed to large amounts of copper which not only lead to her cancer but also to its persistence. Some people do have food sensitivities that can cause to lymph related cancers.

You may say that nothing that they do is scientific but how can you prove that?

Naturopathic Doctors have always treated people with “Adrenal Fatigue”. You may say that this is not a disease, and that the Adrenals can deal with bountiful amounts of stress. But if Adrenal Fatigue is not a scientifically sound nor is it a disease, then please tell me why has The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine found that patients with CFS, have an altered Cortisol and DHEA diurnal rhythm? And why has McGill University, a prestigious academic institution, found the same results, as people who suffer from fatigue have altered or varied Cortisol and DHEA diurnal rhythm.

These studies are new studies, but Naturopathic Doctors have been treating them for thirty years or more?

If a Medical Doctor says in their Hippocratic oath that they are to first do no harm, why do they sometimes prescribe medications which at the end causes more harm.

A statin drug was recently taken of the market because although it was approved, they found that it now causes bladder cancer.

Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food”

If an apple a day keeps the Doctor away, then why don’t we suggest nutrition.

Naturopathic Doctors are unscientific. If the statement be then they would not use blood test and other means to measure biochemical substances and use what they can to treat it.

There is a lot of Journals and Papers published on Orthomolecular Medicine, and CAM. Are these journals not scientific.

The Tripedia Vaccine for Pertussis has been taken off the market. It was noted to the FDA that multiple adverse effects included autism, and SIDS.

If certain drugs can cause carcinogenicities, liver failure, and other nasty side affects why should we take them when there are safer alternatives which can perform the task?

Before you open your traps on making statements that CAM and IM as being  pseudoscientific, go see someone who has treated the ROOT cause of ailments and pathologies.

If you want scientific research I can give them to you!

Sincerely,

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Sep 25 2012

Dead Fish Wins Ig Nobel

Published by under Neuroscience

The Ig Nobel awards are a humorous take on the real thing, highlighting scientific studies over the last year that make you laugh, then make you think. This year’s winner in the neuroscience category is bringing back around a news story from earlier in the year : Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction.

Essentially the researchers used an functional MRI scanner (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of a dead salmon – and they found some. The point of this study was to generate an absurd false positive in order to demonstrate how fMRI studies might be plagued by false positives. It was a clever idea, and it garnered the attention to their point I suspect the researchers were after.

This strategy, of generating an absurd false positive to make a point, reminded me of the study showing that listening to music about old age made subjects actually younger. The point of the study was actually to demonstrate how exploiting researcher degrees of freedom can generate false positive data, even when the hypothesis is impossible.

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Sep 13 2012

Who’s To Blame for Bad Science News Reporting

The work of a science blogger is largely comprised of correcting and criticizing bad science news reporting. I therefore had a love-hate relationship with horrible science reporting – I simultaneously am annoyed and disgusted at the spread of misinformation by professionals who should know better, but delighted by the excellent blog fodder. In fact I see the role of the science blogger as largely filling the gap between scientists and journalists. We tend to be journalists with a strong science background, or scientists who have developed their skill at writing and communicating to the public.

We spend a lot of time lambasting journalists for not doing their job, but in reality there are often three stages and parties involved in the creation of science news: the scientists themselves and the writing in the original paper, the press officers and the press releases they write, and then the journalists and their news articles. In each step of this process their is the potential to distort and exaggerate the findings of the study.

A new study published in PLOS Medicine examines the incidence of “spin” in medical news reporting (exaggerating the clinical effects or implications seen in the study being reported) and the factors that contribute to that spin. What they found is that the single biggest factor predicting the presence of spin in health news reporting is the presence of spin in the abstract of the article written by the scientists themselves.  The authors conclude:

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Aug 29 2012

The Power of Replication – Bems Psi Research

Note – This article was also cross-posted at Science-Based Medicine. 

I love reading quotes by the likes of Karl Popper in the scientific literature. A recent replication of Bem’s infamous psi research, Feeling the Future, gives us this quote:

Popper (1959/2002) defined a scientifically true effect as that “which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed.”

The paper is the latest replication of Daryl Bem’s 2011 series of 9 experiments in which he claimed consistent evidence for a precognitive effect, or the ability of future events to influence the present.  The studies were published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a prestigious psychology journal. All of the studies followed a similar format, reversing the usually direction of standard psychology experiments to determine if future events can affect past performance.

In the 9th study, for example, subjects were given a list of words in sequence on a computer screen. They were then asked to recall as many of the words as possible. Following that they were given two practice sessions with half of the word chosen by the computer at random. The results were then analyzed to see if practicing the words improved the subject’s recall for those words in the past. Bem found that they did, with the largest effect size of any of the 9 studies.

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Aug 09 2012

Iridology Update

I published this article on Science-Based Medicine about a year ago. Some of the commenters provided excellent additional information that I have incorporated into this updated version.

There are many medical pseudosciences that persist despite a utter lack of either plausibility or evidence for efficacy. Some practices emerged out of their culture of origin, or out of the prevailing ideas of a pre-scientific age, while others were manufactured out of the imagination of perhaps well-meaning but highly misguided individual practitioners. They were just made up – homeopathy, for example, or subluxation theory.

Iridology belongs to this latter category – a system of diagnosis that was invented entirely by Ignatz Peczely, a Hungarian physician who first published his ideas in 1893. The story goes that Peczely as a boy found an owl with a broken leg. At the time he noticed a prominent black stripe in the iris of one eye of the owl. He nursed the bird back to health and then noticed that the black line was gone, replaced by ragged white lines. From this single observation Peczely developed the notion of iridology.

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Jun 26 2012

Protoscience vs Pseudoscience

I was recently pointed toward an upcoming conference called, “1st Global Conference: Protoscience, Health and Well-Being.” The e-mailer was concerned, correctly, that the conference represents the tendency within the humanities for, “positioning the sciences as just one of the possible world views that is not ‘privileged’ over any other world view.” I completely agree that there is this persistent post-modernist view in some corners of the humanities. Further, this view has been enthusiastically adopted by some proponents of sectarian health methods (so-called CAM). Anything that undercuts the role of science in determining the legitimacy of a medical intervention is welcome to those who wish to promote unscientific methods.

Here is part of the introduction of the conference:

The popular experiences of alternative healing, DIY and free and open source technology are everyday experiences of the contemporary individual. These experiences are being conceptualised by Fuller (2010) as ‘anti-establishment science movements’ which tacitly challenge the highly socially positioned ‘scientific expert’, the social agent of the establishment science. In the field of health, these movements are challenging the biomedical domination in the field. One of the responses to deal with the authority challenges has been the absorption of selective alternative healing practices (such as acupuncture, homeopathy) into the established health systems while reasserting the central place of biomedicine with continued usage of the referents ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’.

There is a tremendous amount of spin and historical revisionism in this short paragraph. First, I disagree that homeopathy and acupuncture are being absorbed into mainstream medicine. (Homeopathy remains firmly on the fringe, while acupuncture is making some headway.) Rather, these and other modalities are being pushed into mainstream medicine by political maneuvering and general deception. Advocates in influential positions, like Senator Tom Harkin, and pushing their agenda past individuals who are largely uninformed and apathetic. In the last century homeopathy was pushed through for FDA approval by Senator Royal Copeland, a lone advocate. Acupuncture is being pushed into the US military by one or two vocal and tireless advocates. There is no movement among mainstream scientists or physicians to absorb any of these methods – they are just being effectively promoted by advocates while the mainstream reaction is mainly that of the “shruggie.”

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May 03 2012

CAM Logical Fallacies

There are times when an article packs in logical fallacies so densely that I just can’t help deconstructing it. Another feature that often lures me in is a blatant self-contradiction that the author seems to be oblivious to. HuffPo Canada has recently published an article by “investigative journalist” Isla Traquair that does both. The articles emerges from her health consumer series that she is filming. The result is a confused, conflicting, and profoundly naive article that makes me wonder how much investigation she could have done.

Let’s go through and count the logical fallacies and contradictions. She wonders:

What exactly makes a medical treatment accepted and trusted by mainstream society? Does it make a difference if a practitioner wears a white coat and gets employed through the health service? Do they need a certificate and letters after their name? Or do we trust someone who has learnt ancient teachings using the laws and patterns of nature?

She begins by begging the question about what creates medical authority, and in so doing creates a straw man (a nice double). She cites some of the superficial trappings of legitimacy (formal recognition, degrees, and the standard uniform of the trade), as if this is what people trust about mainstream medicine. She could have asked – is it the years of training and education, the culture of science and self-criticism, the mountain of hard-won evidence, or perhaps the layers of regulation?

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Feb 02 2012

American Headache Society Recommends Placebos for Migraine

This is yet another installment in my series on how so-called “alternative” medicine thrives under a double standard – a bizarro world where the rules of science and logic are suspended in favor of uncritical promotion. The American Headache Society (AHS) just sent out a press release endorsing acupuncture for migraine headaches. They write:

Mt. Royal, NJ (February 1, 2012) – When it comes to treating migraine, so-called “sham” acupuncture (where needles are inserted only to a superficial depth in the skin and not in specific sites) and traditional acupuncture where needles are inserted in specific sites, both are effective, according to the American Headache Society (AHS).

Citing publicity surrounding a recent Canadian study comparing the effectiveness of the two types of acupuncture, David W. Dodick, MD, AHS president, said both types of acupuncture, particularly when electrical stimulation is involved, may work to release endorphins that are important in controlling signals of pain and inflammation.

“How much of a benefit sham acupuncture can have on the release of these chemicals is unclear,” he said. “This suggests the benefits of treatment may not depend on the exact technique of acupuncture and needle positioning.”

Studies show that sham acupuncture is as effective as true acupuncture, and Dr. Dodick concludes from this that both work. The proper scientific interpretation of this result is that the treatment (acupuncture) is no different than placebo (sham acupuncture) and therefore has only a placebo effect. Only in CAM world can you take a negative result and then spin it into a positive result like this. Science is all about controlling for variables, and when you control for the variable of acupuncture (inserting needles into acupuncture points) it does not work.

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